e-Namami Gange: Restoring Ganga to Its Piety

River Ganga, one of the holiest of rivers, is also likely the most polluted river in the country. Often regarded as the cradle to India’s civilization, it was a river that is known for the purity of its water and the abundance of its flow.

However, today its water line has dramatically receded, especially as it descends the hills and flows into the plains. Comprising close to two-thirds of its total length, Ganga’s stretch in the plains is choked with filth, dangerous chemicals and untreated discharges from the industries. Ganga, today is screaming out for help and to save it from our apathy!

With initiatives such as Namami Gange the government of India, in the last few years, has displayed a renewed focus on river cleaning. Drives to remove treated and untreated waste from river water, large-scale construction of sewage treatment plants, and measures to keep any industrial or city waste from entering the river stream are all among measures taken by the central and state-level authorities. To fasten the above measures, leveraging advanced and data-driven technologies is a domain that needs to be explored for a much-needed and radical approach to address the challenges of river cleaning.

Outcome-Driven Approach for the Nirmal Dhara

The idea of an unpolluted flow – Nirmal Dhara – has been a descriptive for the river Ganga time and again. Today, as steps are being taken to restore the wholesomeness of the river, the idea of Nirmal Dhara has been rejuvenated.

For large-scale river cleaning programs such as Namami Gange, one of the major challenge is the lack of real-time access to ground level information, and the ability to quickly and efficiently derive actionable intelligence from data. Recent government-led drives for country-wide sensor-ification of river-fronts to collect real-time information are resulting in an unprecedented explosion of data. Water quality monitoring applications along with customized sensors are providing measurements across various parameters, including chloride and fluoride levels, water temperature, and colour. Spanning 2,500 kilometres, these sensors are providing live water quality measurements and information on pollution trends, sources, chemical compounds, and more.

To optimally manage this huge-amount of data generated and extract useful insights from it, advanced analytics, data segregation, and disruptive technologies must be leveraged to play a key role. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, combined with bot-based solutions, can boost India’s potential to fight pollution in its rivers. Channeled towards comprehensive planning and management in real time, data-driven insights can help make decisions more effective, steps executed more efficient, and time taken significantly less.

Technological initiatives such as Geographic Information Systems, an interface through which data and subsequent actions can be shared with a larger population through geo portals and mobile apps, can ensure people’s deeper involvement. All this can make a measurable impact on the country’s polluted rivers.

While the government is playing its role in undertaking river cleaning initiatives, individuals, private entities, and corporates can lend some much-needed support. Fulfilling the need for strong feedback mechanisms, private sector involvement can help supplement robust decision support systems and enable enhanced visibility. For such large-scale initiatives to be successful, the onus of responsibility cannot be laid solely on the government; private entities and citizens must also come together in an integrated effort to make a difference.

Laying a Roadmap for Aviral Dhara From Other Polluted Rivers

The need for effective river cleaning programs has been gaining momentum around the world. Be it for rivers such as the Thames in the United Kingdom, Niger in West Africa, Rio la Piedad in Mexico, or Spree in Germany, organizations and authorities in various countries are pursuing with innovative solutions to effectively execute large-scale clean-ups of polluted rivers. Aligned with the same objectives, common, scalable, open, and real-time technology platforms are offering such programs a radical approach for making “Aviral Dhara,” meaning continuous flow.

India has been blessed with an abundance of rivers, some of which are holy and are worshiped by the people. Rivers such as Indus and Yamuna in the North, Brahmaputra in the East, Narmada in the West, and Godavari and Krishna in the South are the lifelines of the country and symbols of age-old culture and civilization. Revered for piousness, rivers such as Ganga are not only an important natural resource for the country but also the source of spiritual sustenance.

The success of ambitious projects such as Namami Gange can not only lay a roadmap for cleaning of polluted rivers in the country but offer various measures that can be replicated alongside other polluted river stretches. Millions of people depend on Ganga for its powers of healing and regeneration, thus making technology-led initiatives such as Namami Gange a ray of hope for the country.

Hemant Dabke is vice president of Strategic Industries at SAP India.
This story originally appeared on the Financial Express.